Monday, November 30, 2009

Demystifying holotropic breathwork

In the past week I spent two days assisting with holotropic breathwork sessions. These sessions enabled me to observe how incredibly powerful this healing method is. Yet at the same time, some negative articles have appeared in the press at around the same time regarding this technique. So the following blog entry is dedicated to demystifying some of the fiction that seems to be surrounding holotropic breathwork (HB):

Expectations: There seem to be overblown expectations of what HB is and what it can do. Some people expect that they'll be taken on a wild trip into the transpersonal realm of the human psyche, full of colourful images, meetings with God and answers to all questions. Others expect that one HB session will cure their addictions, neuroses or whatever problem they are dealing with. While all of this can happen, it is generally not the case. And it virtually never happens in the first session. My advice -- as someone that has "breathed" at HB sessions at least 20x (over the course of seven years) and that has assisted at several sessions as well -- would be to try to have no expectations and use the first session as a "getting-to-know altered states of consciousness" session. I also like the advice that it's good to experience at least 3 sessions before making up one's mind about HB, because each session is so different - all of my 20 sessions have certainly been different.

Session leader: This is probably the most important point and I can't stress this enough. Only attend and breathe at sessions that are lead by highly experienced pracitioners that have been certified by the Grof Transpersonal Training Program! There are too many people out there that attended a couple sessions and then began leading their own sessions. This is dangerous as these people are not trained to properly handle all of the situations that can occur. Officialy trained practioners are obligated to provide a 3-4 hour presentation about HB, which must be attended by all persons before they are allowed to "breathe" at a session. My advice would be to definitely attend this initial presentation and only proceed with attendance at the actual breathing session if you have a good feeling about the practitioner based on the initial presentation. And if no such initial presentation is offered, run far away! :-)

At the end of this post I would like to express my opinion that when lead by the right people, holotropic breathwork is a perfectly safe and wonderful method of self-discovery. It makes it possible to put aside our usual assumptions, habits, roles and social masks, explore our psyche, discover new parts of us and integrate these parts into our lives. This makes us more complete as human beings and in turn more happy, which brings to mind Carl Jung's famous quote: "strive not to be perfect, strive to be complete!"

For more information about Holotropic Breathwork, please visit its official website.

A little something from the Upanishads...

I was waiting for the bus today and noticed a beautiful poster for meditation lessons. On it was a quote from the Upanishads, which I just have to share here:

Smaller than the smallest, larger than the largest soul breathes in the hidden heart of man. Many, though they hear of the Self in the lotus of the heart, do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks of it. Intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to identify with it.

Here's to all the great teachers out there and here's wishing that anyone who is searching finds the right teacher for them! I've certainly been blessed to have amazing teachers in my life and I'd certainly encourage anyone to search for the right teacher. They're definitely out there.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My top three happiness habits

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me what I thought were the three most important "happiness habits". I found the question so intriguing that I decided I would answer it on this blog :-)

Obviously I -- and nobody else, for that matter -- can say what the three definitive happiness habits are. But what I can say is what the top three are for me - at least at this stage of my life. So here we go, in no particular order:

1) The DAILY BAG exercise! It consists of asking and answering the following three questions:
  • what are some of my blessings? (what am I grateful for in my life?)
  • what are some of my accomplishments? (what am I really proud of in my life?)
  • what are my goals, dreams, ambitions? (for today, this month, next five years?)

This exercise comes from the book "The psychology of winning" by Dr. Denis Waitley, and I like this daily exercise so much that I do it at least once a week :-) Personally for me, I find that it's reminding myself of the things that I am grateful for that has the greatest impact on my happiness.

2) Regular daily exercise or movement routine. Every morning I make sure that I get at least five minutes of my favorite physical exercises before continuing with the rest of my day. If possible, I try to get in at least 10 or 15 minutes. What I think is important is experimenting with and discovering a routine that works well. For some such a routine can be based on yoga, others may prefer one based on martial arts. I like to base about 70% of my daily exercise routine on Dan Millman's "Peaceful Warrior Workout" and I flexibly add the other 30% based on however I am feeling that morning. I also think that even if you can do just one minute, than it's worth doing. As Dan says, "one minute every day is a lot better than an hour zero times per week" (or something like that :-)

And if anyone's interested, this routine is a part of my larger "start the day right" routine, which also consists of a meditation, hot/cold shower and at least one piece of fruit for breakfast. I think such a "start the day right" routine is extremely useful, but likely somewhat different for everyone - experiment, experiment, experiment.

3) And finally, I am not sure it this last one is a habit -- perhaps it's more of a principle -- but I find it so important that I want to include it here: Recognize that being happy means being generally happy, and not all the time happy. I am not sure who said it, but "if we were happy all the time, how would we know?". I personally have the feeling that there is a general consensus in society that we have to be happy all the time, otherwise something is wrong. Well I don't buy that. I don't think there is anything wrong at all if we are unhappy, sad or angry once a in a while. In fact, I actually think that being unhappy, sad or angry occasionaly is a sign that we're healthy! It's all about what feelings predominate our lives, and that feeling should hopefully be happiness. I've found that approaching life in this way releases a lot of pressure and, lo and behold, increases the percentage of time that I am happy, AND increases the intensity of this happiness.

Well, I could write about this for hours, but I think I'll stop here. After all, blog entries should be brief. But enough about me. What are your top three happiness habits?